Jackson County Opinions...

October 25, 2000


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Column
By Mark Beardsley
The Commerce News
October 25, 2000

Distortion Of Truth Damages Political Process
The third presidential debate was not exactly high theater, nor was it informative for anyone concerned about what the candidates would do if elected.
A debate coach might rule otherwise, but I scored it a win for George W. Bush, not on facts or issues, but on personality. He has one, and Al Gore doesn't.
Otherwise, the debate was just an extension of the political ads both candidates have run, which is to say the so-called facts represent misstatements, exaggerations and omissions to the point that no voter can really get a handle on the truth.
That is the status of political discourse in America, where politics has degenerated to the level to which Bill Clinton dropped when he stood by his "definition of sex" to cover his lie about the liaison with Monica Lewinski. And while politicians left and right belittled our fearless leader for that evasion, virtually all of them use similar perversions of facts and figures to try to get elected.
One need not listen to presidential candidates to see the unethical manipulation of facts. It's right here in our local elections. Both Scott Tolbert and Mike Beatty have taken grains of truth and stretched and manipulated them to convey messages that border on outright lies.
Tolbert, for example, calls the acquisition of land by the Jackson County Water and Sewerage Authority "a shady land deal," saying that it was "swamp." There was nothing at all shady about the deal, with which the authority remains delighted, and Pat Bell had nothing to do with the purchase. The property gives the authority room to expand its valuable waste treatment plant and the wetlands portion provides a buffer against development.
Beatty's campaign against Sen. Eddie Madden has no local issue base. He has selectively taken Madden's votes in years in the Senate and tried to make them look like something they weren't.
In any other context, the kind of manipulation of truth used by politicians would be damned, but it has become expected and accepted in politics. It amazes me that we expect the men and women who hold public office to be truthful when their campaigns are based on contorting the truth. When Bill Clinton explained that he did not consider an act of oral sex to be "sex," it was no more a deviation from reality than what candidates for office turn out every day.
The manipulation of truth takes place in virtually every contested political race at every level, not just by the candidates, but by their supporters and by the voters to justify their choices. The result is to give the public a distorted view of both the candidates and the issues, of the problems and the potential solutions. It causes cynicism about the entire process, about politics and about government.
Apathy about government and elected officials shows up in the low voter turnout in elections. We had a 28 percent turnout for the General Primary. The last presidential election had a 49 percent voter turnout.
Look no further than the process for an explanation. When the truth is so distorted, credibility is lost, and people who have no faith in the candidates have no reason to vote.



Editorial
The Jackson Herald
October 25, 2000

Ballot questions recommendations
One of the most confusing items on a ballot are the amendment and referendum questions voters are asked to decide.
We have studied the amendments and referendums that will be on the Nov. 7 ballot and the following are our recommendations:
Amendment 1: To allow the removal from office of a public official convicted of a felony.
We believe this amendment deserves a YES vote. Public officials convicted of an offense should not be allowed to hold onto their office.
Amendment 2: Homestead exemption tax relief.
We believe this amendment deserves a YES vote. This amendment safeguards legislation enacted in 1999 to give property tax relief to homeowners.
Amendment 3: Compensation for injured law enforcement and firefighter personnel.
We believe this amendment deserves a YES vote. These are both dangerous public jobs and compensation should be allowed for those injured in the line of duty. The General Assembly will set the guidelines if adopted.
Amendment 4: Compensation for school personnel killed or disabled in the line of duty.
We believe this amendment deserves a YES vote. The benefits would be funded from distinctive car license plates honoring Georgia educators.
Amendment 5: Compensation for DOT workers killed or disabled in the line of duty.
We believe this amendment deserves a YES vote.
Amendment 6: Special tax provisions for marine vessels.
We believe this amendment deserves a YES vote. This measure would defer taxes paid by boat dealers until such time as the boat was sold.
Amendment 7: Increasing time a person should be a lawyer before serving as a state court judge.
We believe this amendment deserves a YES vote. The measure would increase from five to seven years a person must be a practicing lawyer before he could be a state court judge.
Referendum A: Exemption of farm equipment from property taxes.
We believe this referendum deserves a NO vote. We're all for tax relief, but it's unfair to single out just one group of businesses for a special property tax exemption. Other family-owned business have to pay taxes on their equipment, so why not exempt them as well? While we have supported other agricultural tax breaks for farmers, including the conservation use program, this referendum goes far beyond that. We can't support such a narrow special interest proposal.
Referendum B: Tax exemption for tools of manual laborers.
We believe this referendum deserves a NO vote. This provision is seldom enforced anyway.
Referendum C: Special homestead exemption for spouses of military personnel killed in action.
We believe this referendum deserves a YES vote. It seems reasonable to allow for this special homestead exemption for surviving spouses of those KIA.
Referendum D: Special property tax break for Elks Lodge property.
We believe this referendum deserves a NO vote. There is no reason to single out the Elks Lodge property for a special tax break not offered to other worthwhile organizations.

Column
By Mike Buffington
The Jackson Herald
October 25, 2000

Smarmy party politics out of control
I'm not too worried about Atlanta's bad air, but I am worried about the political smog that is starting to cover our state and nation.
I've covered elections for 20 years and thought I'd seen just about everything. But the putrid political discourse that has typified this election season is a new low.
We all know why that's happening: The battle over redistricting has brought both political parties into local races more than ever before. In some instances, the state party is in total control of local campaigns.
Both Republicans and Democrats are to blame. Neither party has clean hands this election season. And I'm beginning to wonder if either party stands for anything other than just winning elections at any cost.
It's not just negative advertising that creates this. Frankly, some negative ads are worthwhile if they are truthful, if they are about important local issues and if they are limited to debate between the candidates and not some outside issue.
But this year, the political discourse has gone far beyond just negative campaigns. Both parties have poisoned the air by attempting to polarize voters along racial, generational and economic lines. And both parties have pandered to voters, tossing previously held ideological positions out the window in favor of views that resonate in the polls.
It's all about the polls. Positions are taken because of polling data. The truth isn't important. Consistency isn't important. The only thing that matters is the hot-button issue of the day.
What is especially appalling is the level of outright lying that is taking place this election season. Both political parties have adopted the old Nazi propaganda idea: Tell a lie big enough and long enough and eventually the public will start believing it.
That's why this newspaper has been aggressive this year in pointing out where candidates have strayed from the truth. A couple of candidates have blasted us for that, but we'll keep on telling the truth anyway. Unlike those candidates, we don't have a motive to lie. We intend for our credibility to still be intact long after candidate names have faded from memory.
But distasteful political dialogue has long-term consequences. If you've ever wondered why the Palestinians and Israelis have been fighting for 2,000 years, it's because their venomous political discourse long ago became what our political discourse is becoming today. When truth and reason vanish, the fragile social fabric that binds our society together becomes frayed, ripped and eventually torn asunder.
It has to stop.
Voters are tired of positions and votes being taken out of context and twisted by opponents into total lies.
Voters are tired of negative political phone calls that invade our homes from people who don't say who they are.
Voters are tired of tasteless political ads that attempt to play on the fears of our older citizens.
Voters are tired of silly faxes and emails from candidates that are nothing more than inane propaganda.
Voters are tired of candidates pandering to any group by making promises they know they can't keep.
It's time voters reject this polarized political dialogue created by political party machines that have spun out of control. Instead, we should focus on the merits or demerits of individual candidates whatever their party label.
As someone told me this week, it doesn't matter what brand of car you drive; what matters is that you get where you want to go.
Democrat or Republican, Chevrolet or Ford: They're all just a labels.
What's really important is the reliability of the candidate who drives the car, not the name of the vehicle itself.
Mike Buffington is editor of The Jackson Herald.


Editorial
The Commerce News
October 25, 2000

Eddie Madden Deserves Re-Election To Senate
One of the important questions Jackson County voters will answer Nov. 7 is who will represent them in the Georgia State Senate. The race pits incumbent Eddie Madden of Elberton against Jefferson resident Mike Beatty.
The News supports Madden for re-election for a number of reasons.
First, Madden has been productive. He has worked with officials in Jackson County at every opportunity to solve local problems. He was among the strong voices who helped defeat plans to build a private landfill in Arcade. He helped get state officials involved in providing grant and loan funds so Arcade residents could have safe drinking water after their wells were contaminated. His efforts have brought state funds in to help local governments in many areas, including the renovation of the Commerce Civic Center and funds to provide architectural services for the planning of the Bill Anderson Center for Performing Arts.
Madden stepped in when local residents were afraid they would have no input when the city decided to annex a large tract of land and gave them their forum. Madden has performed similarly for people and officials in the other counties in the district. Whenever constituents have called on Madden for help, he has tried to accommodate them.
When Mike Beatty served in the Georgia House of Representatives, his constituents were not so fortunate. He demonstrated very clearly on more than one occasion that he would go back on his word. He promised to introduce legislation to let county residents vote on the issue of a school merger, and two days later changed his mind. He introduced legislation for Commerce to annex a large tract of land, then killed the bill. Reminded of that in a political debate this year, Beatty said he had not been given all the facts. In reality, he did not have the fortitude to stand by his commitment.
Perhaps more importantly, Beatty seems to have no grasp of local politics or issues. His campaign has consisted mostly of contorting Madden's voting record through a constant stream of "news releases" that are more fiction than fact. Beatty has no other background of leadership or service and his primary qualification appears to be an undying devotion to the Republican Party. Wherever the GOP stands is where Mike Beatty stands.
For this county to have good representation in the Georgia Senate, it needs a candidate capable of sizing up the issues on the basis of how they affect his constituents, a candidate whose commitment has value and someone whose loyalty is to the citizens, not the political party.
Madden lacks Beatty's smooth campaign style, but what he has is a record of service to his community and his constituents. Eddie Madden deserves to be re-elected to represent the people of the 47th State Senate District.

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